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Raising Children the Secwepemc Way - Mona Jules

Susan Andrew, photograph courtesy of Kamloops Musuem and Archives

Mona's Story

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My name is Mona Jules. I come from Simpcwulecw. Long ago, I grew up in Skitsesten. My mother and father’s name was Meleni and Francis Ignace. My grandfather was Edward Ignace and my grandmothers were Sulyen ell Wiseni. Sulyen came from Skitsesten and Wiseni Paul came from Kamloops.

I have a lot of children. One of my sons is here. He wants to learn Secwepemctsin. He is smart. He understands the language and speaks a little. I want him to understand and learn more so he came to the language gathering with me.

Long ago when a baby was going to be born, the mother and grandmother were called to help when the baby was being born. The men left to work in the fields. Only the grandmother and other children were there. The rest went into the sweat lodge or did other things, so they weren’t in the house. When I was young, I was there with my father and I heard everything my grandmother was saying. When the baby was born, my grandmother boiled some medicine bathwater. He was called by a Secwepemc name. He was bathed in the medicine water. Grandmother washed him all over with the medicine water. She wrapped him up in a blanket and put him in a birch bark baby basket. My grandmother sang a lullaby to the baby. In this way the baby knows where he comes from and who he is. He smelled the medicine. He heard his language. He gets to know the baby basket and the songs of the grandmother and how she comforts him. He knows a lot of his culture from all of that. He knows how people do things culturally and how they speak and how they talk to the children. He heard the songs sung to him. He felt everything that was done to him. Within hours of his birth he has already experienced much of his culture.But now it is hard to bring back how the people used to do things long ago. We forgot a lot of our ways. If we could bring back what we have learned from the past, the young ones coming behind us will know the ways. We should teach the younger people how to do things, like, what to do with the baby’s umbilical cord.

I was told how the baby’s umbilical cord was cut and wrapped in buckskin. The grandmother took it and buried it under a rock on the grandmother’s land, or territory. That’s what the grandmothers in Skitsesten did long ago. The child will never be lost. He will know where he comes from. When he grows up, he will always think of his relatives and will go back to them. He will know the language and his people. He will know what he was taught and know how to do cultural things.

Because we’ve forgotten how to do these things, it is hard for the children to learn. We don’t do these things with the children anymore. We forget what the grandmothers used to do. We thought it was a good thing our grandmothers used to do, that’s why we shouldn’t forget them, like what to do when babies are born. We will make it better if we talk to them and comfort them more.

As the children grew up, they were watched by relatives and the grandmothers and grandfathers, to see what they were good at. The children talked to the Elders in Secwepemctsin and the Elders gave them a pair of moccasins. They said “you are smart, you helped your elders.” Someone else might give him dried salmon or dried meat, and say “I am giving you this because you are smart for helping your grandfather make fire wood and chop wood. You are doing good.” And so he was helped not to forget what to do when he was with his relatives. His elders might give him moccasins or huckleberries. He was taught by the Elders and they would say, “This child has grown up from being a baby”. While this child is growing up, the elders told the people, “When you see the child misbehaving, talk to him. Tell him not to misbehave when he is with the people. Help him all the time”.



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